The Life Plan

Letter of Intent

Preparing a Letter of Intent is one of the first steps in developing a Comprehensive Life Plan for a family who has a member with a disability.

In many ways, it is the most important document that a parent or caregiver can prepare. This instrument will help the guardians, trustees, courts, and any other person, interpret your hopes and desires for the future of the person with the disability. The Letter of Intent is not a formal "legal" document along the same lines as the Wills and Trusts. However, the courts and future care givers rely on this record for guidance in understanding the wishes of you and your family member with the disability. The courts tend to favor the parent's wishes when it comes to life decisions involving a person with a disability. The Letter of Intent is the glue that holds together all the other pieces of the Comprehensive Life Plan.

Many hundreds of teachers, doctors, caseworkers and other professionals come and go during the lifetime of a person with a disability. You have been the only constant in the life of the person with a disability. If you put a past, present or future into some general record, such as a Letter of Intent, the wheel (which may be painful) will not have to be reinvented. By compiling as much information about your family member with a disability, and your desires for him or her, you will be giving future care providers the knowledge and insight they will need to provide the best and your expectations about the future possible lifestyle. They will not have to waste precious time learning the likes, dislikes, talents and skills and/or medical management techniques that you have found to work so well . . . those same things you tell the new caseworker when he or she comes along every six months.

A letter of intent should contain information regarding the future in the following areas; residence, education, employment, medical care, behavior management, social activities and religious endeavors. Simply begin by taking a pad of paper and across the top of the page place the title “Concerns for letter of Intent” and under that list each of the above items. Then under each item, list 4 to 6 choices in order of preference. As much as possible, the information in the letter of intent should be the result of discussions between the primary care provider and the person with the disability.

Unlike the traditional "letter" which you write, send and then forget about, this one doesn't leave home, and it should never end. Once you write the Letter of Intent, you simply sign and date it. Each year, you take it out the Planning Portfolio and add to it, sign and date it.

The directions in the Letter of Intent may change as you, your loved one, government regulations and services, and society change. Unless there have been some dramatic events in your family member's life and within your feelings and attitudes, additions can be made on a specific day each year, i.e., Christmas, Birthday's, etc. Occasionally, there will be a significant change, such as a new residential placement, bad reaction to a new type of medication, etc., which would require an immediate addition.

The Letter of Intent is not an essay for school. Don't worry about grammar, spelling or the number of words. Your major concern will be to make sure that your family member with a disability will have a happy and respectful lifestyle.

Many families who have a member with a disability find that they must overcome some major emotional hurdles while writing this document. It is, most often, the first time parents have put in writing many of the concerns they have felt since the son or daughter was officially diagnosed with the disability. Please understand, the feelings you experience as you work through organizing this letter are the same as most families in a similar situation. Parents or Caregivers need to go through this very difficult process to guarantee a well-planned future for the person with a disability.

As much as possible, always include input from the person with a disability.